Did religious tolerance of Moorish Spain extend to heretical christian sects?

I’ve been reading a lot about the Cathars and their unfortunate role in history. I’ve also heard a lot about the fact that supposedly Al-Andalus (islamic spain) had a much higher degree of religious tolerance than the Catholic States of the time. Jews and Catholics were allowed to practise freely (with restrictions on conversion).

So did that tolerance extend to heretical christian sects or only to the “official” Catholic church? If a bunch of Cathar perfects and their followers arrived in Al-Andalus in 1210 to escape the Albigensian Crusade would they have been allowed to practice their faith openly?

Well, the rulers of Muslim Spain neither knew or cared much about religious differences within Christianity, but they (usually) gave the Christian communities the right to govern themselves in civil and religious matters. So, our hypothetical Christian heretics would be under the authority of the Christian judges, and subject to whatever laws there were in place in the Christian community against heresy.

So the question is how far did that go? Would the muslim rulers have stood by and watched while the orthodox catholics in Al-Andalus got together an Auto-da-fe and started burning Cathars or would they have prevented it?

I suppose yes. Public Order is public order.

Another question would be how much did it apply, i.e., did the Christians living in Muslim lands give a hoot about specific denomination? The period covered (800 years) includes things like whole Christian kingdoms being declared heretics (Navarra twice), arguments about which Rite to use… but I don’t know whether there was much in the way of differently-organized branches of Christianity.

I asked this question hoping to hear some specific evidence of christian “heretical” communities that existed in Al Andalus or other muslim countries for periods of time. All the searches I’ve done haven’t found anything.

So unless something turns up, I’m guessing that they weren’t tolerated…

Any medieval history experts on here got anything firm to the contary?

I don’t. As far as I know, none of the Cathars made it to Muslim Spain…there were some in the Catholic Spanish kingdoms. The martyrs of Cordoba were all non heretical Christians.

“They didn’t reach the Muslim kingdoms” isn’t the same as “they wouldn’t have been tolerated there.”

Why would a Cathar (since they keep being mentioned) be interested in moving to southern Spain, unless it was for work reasons (ie, non religious)? Franks moved to northern Spain quite a lot, both artisans being imported and pilgrims deciding to stay, but why would someone want to move from, say, southern France (“home”) to Seville (people speak strange, I’d have to pay high taxes and the road there is extremely dangerous)?

The Nestorian Christians, who had been persecuted by the Church, began and continued to flourish when Syria and the Middle East fell to the Muslims. I should imagine it was much the same story in Spain.

In a similar vein the Arian Heresy became the dominant strain of Christianity in the lands (Spain and North Africa) conquered by the Vandals, first converted by Arian missionaries. This lasted until the Vandals were conquered in their turn and the mainstream Christianity of the Athanasian Creed was restored (at least until the Muslims came along!)

Well, in terms of “other Muslim countries” there was the purported heretics of Bosnia, generally referred to as either Patarenes or Bogomils. Continuing orthodox persecution reportedly stopped with the Ottoman conquest and it has been suggested that most/all eventually converted to Islam.

The problem with all of these generally linked ( at least in orthodox Church’s eyes ) late medieval heresies, is that documentation is very sparse and overwhelmingly stems from their opponents. So modern scholarship often finds it difficult to reconstruct just how widespread and heretical they actually were. So for example it has been argued that a lot of the supposed “Manichaean” connections between these sects were more Papal propaganda or misunderstandings than actual truth - it was possibly more a convenient label than anything else.

Well because they faced not just “persecution” but complete extinction at the hands of the Catholic Crusaders. A few more taxes under regime that didn’t give a crap about your dualist views as long as you paid your taxes and didn’t make a fuss, would look pretty good to me.

I don’t beleive any of them ever made the journey however, I guess while it may look pretty close to us, in the 12th Century the jounrey from southern France to southern Spain was seriously long and difficult one.

Exactly. We’re talking months through land in war, over mountains, or by sea facing storms and pirates (often the same people you’d paid to carry you). And there were Christian lands in between where, so long as they didn’t make too much noise on top of a soapbox, Franks were welcome: some of those lands had pagans, muslims, jews and catholics living together; some had their share of political conflicts with Rome.

aldiboronti, my information was that the Goth kings of Spain abandoned Arrianism and joined their subjects’ “mainstream” Christianity in the Council of Toledo, figuring that it might make said subjects more manageable.

You may well be right there, Nava, I was speaking from memory, often a risky thing to do.

Except we do have evidence that Cathars travelled to Italy and even modern day Hungary to be initiated or give teachings to similar orders there. Eg there is evidence of cross over from the Bogomils to the Cathars. My source for this is “The Perfect Heresy” by Stephen O Shea.

Thats just as long a journey… so I’m puzzled when entire communities were facing extinction by mass execution that none of them ever took the risk of travelling to southern spain to escape persecution. Or maybe they did but the evidence was destroyed when the Catholics tool control again?

This is still a matter of some debate, actually. The historian Mark Pegg has been particularly aggressive in trying to tear this idea down in recent years and while the jury is still out, he makes some interesting points. Here’s a review of one of his works where his thoughts are fleshed out a little: H-France Reviews

Let’s remember that this was a time of great turmoil in Spain. In 1195 the Almohades crushed Castille at the battle of Alarcos. Only 17 years later they were in turn brought low at Las Navas de Tolosa. Southern Spain was at the center of a great deal of fighting and rapid shifting of borders in the late 12th/early 13th century - it would not have appeared idyllic.

Moreover the Almohades, contrary to the earlier Taifa states, did not have quite the same record of tolerance towards their subjects. They probably weren’t quite as harsh overall as the Almoravids they overthrew, but medieval Christians probably wouldn’t have appreciated the nuances and would rather just have heard of the the abuses of the various fundamentalist Moroccans that had swept into Spain to terminate the earlier “Golden Age.”

Muslim Spain in the late 12th century would probably have been regarded by only half-informed contemporaries as perilous and unstable- quite correctly. By contrast the “cathars” did retreat into the Pyrenees, where the mountains offered a modicum of shelter and were a lot closer than al-Andalus.

We should bear in mind the possibillity that the Moorish rules of Spain might have taken one attitude to the infidel communities arlready there when they conquered the place, and to new large-scale migrations of infidels. The fact that the native Catholic communities were tolerated did not necessarily mean that immigrating Cathars would be - especially if there presence upset the native Catholics.